Cookie photography is not just for professional food photographers. It’s a skill that comes in handy if you bake cookies to sell online, if you’re the community manager of a coffee shop and you want to share the cookies available on the menu, or if you’re an amateur food photographer looking to broaden your skills.
In this article, I’ll share some cookie photography tips that will help you improve your images without spending money on expensive gear and equipment. So if you’re ready to make your cookies look as delicious as they taste, then let’s get started!
1. Do some prep work
Cookies – even the most delicious, freshly baked cookies – won’t look perfect right from the start. Instead, if you want flawless cookie photos, you have to put in some effort.
Now, you can do this in one of two ways:
You can clean up in the studio.
Or you can fix blemishes and errors in post-processing.
I encourage you to handle as much as you can in the studio. Sure, given the power of photo-editing software, you can ignore small details and plan to fix them in post. But these fixes can take significant skill, plus they often require many hours in front of the computer.
For example, deleting fingerprints from a glass cookie jar can be a really tricky task in Photoshop. It’ll take a lot of time and effort. But cleaning the jar and handling it with gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints is much easier.
The same goes for the crumbs that will inevitably fall on the set while you’re arranging the cookies. Instead of healing each one in Photoshop – a time-consuming task! – simply use a rocket blower to clean up the area before you take your photos.
2. Try different angles
Change your perspective.
It’s something you say (or are encouraged to do) when you need a new outlook on life. And it also works when doing cookie photography, albeit in a more literal sense. Changing the angle of view can give you completely different results.
Look at the example above. Both images feature the same food styling, lighting, and camera settings. But they are completely different shots thanks to a simple perspective change.
When it comes to cookie photography, there are three main angles: top-down, straight-on, and 45 degrees. Each of these angles has its pros and cons.
The top-down angle doesn’t show much depth, but you can play with shapes and colors in the food composition. If you’re using a slower lens, it’s often the ideal perspective, because you won’t need a deep depth of field to keep the cookies sharp.
On the other hand, a straight-on angle is great for photographing stacks of cookies – yet it won’t show the cookie tops, so it doesn’t work if there’s a special decoration worth displaying.
Bottom line: Each cookie and composition can benefit from different angles of view. Don’t be afraid to experiment; when in doubt, try all possibilities to find the best one.
3. Use the ingredients for styling
As you probably know, styling is a big part of food photography in general and cookie photography in particular. It’s simple: If you want great images, you must spend time styling.
Unfortunately, some of us might not have enough budget or space to include all sorts of props and backgrounds when styling our images. But one simple way to optimize your resources? Use the ingredients from the cookie recipe as props.
If you made the cookies yourself, you should already have the ingredients with you. And even if you have to buy them extra for the shoot, you can use them later to make an extra batch of cookies!
Styling via ingredients makes for amazing images because you’re giving the viewer visual clues to how the cookies taste – thus incorporating additional senses and making your photographs even more appetizing.
4. Get close
Cookies are pretty small subjects, so food photographers are often tempted to make a cookie stack and pair it with a glass of milk or a nice table setting.
But while that can look great, don’t be afraid to get close and photograph a single cookie. After all, cookies are the heroes of the photoshoot!
Since you’re getting close, you’ll probably need to crop everything around the cookie. No problem; not everything must be fully visible inside the frame.
Learn where to crop different elements so that you get a pleasing result. And if you’re not so sure, then open the frame a little – you can always fine-tune the crop in post-processing. In fact, some programs, such as Lightroom and Photoshop, have Crop-tool composition grids to help you improve your cropping.
5. Use light modifiers
When hearing about flashes and strobes, we immediately think of softboxes, snoots, and all sorts of fancy light modifiers. But most people don’t make the same associations when thinking about natural light, and that’s a mistake.
You see, while cookie photography is mostly done with natural light, you shouldn’t let the light just fall. Instead, you should learn to control the natural light and use it to get the results you want.
And that’s where modifiers come in handy.
I took these next two images with window light. But see how different the unmodified shot looks (left) compared to the setup with a golden reflector opposite the window (right). Not only does the reflector fill the shadows, but it also adds a warm tone to the entire image, giving it a more homey feeling.
You can use diffusers to soften the light, reflectors to lift the shadows, flags to direct the light, and so much more. The key is practice (and plenty of experimentation!).
So the next time you’re doing a cookie photography photoshoot, make sure you bring some lighting accessories!
6. Use the composition rules wisely
Composition refers to the way different elements are arranged within the frame. By carefully composing your shots, you can get infinitely better results.
But how do you create stunning compositions? Well, there are simple composition guidelines that are designed to improve your images, like the rule of thirds and leading lines. These are great, but it’s important to bear in mind that, for cookie photography, some composition rules are more helpful than others.
7. Don’t underestimate the importance of texture
When photographing cookies, it’s easy to focus on the big picture: The overall setup, the styling, the prepping.
But you should not neglect the little things, such as texture, which can make a huge difference to your images.
Texture plays a big part in cookie photography because it helps the viewer imagine how the cookies feel. By including texture in your shots, the viewer can practically feel what it’s like to handle the cookies – to pick them up, break them, bite them, etc.
So add texture whenever you can. Note that you can do this through lighting (sidelight is helpful, here), or by physically adding texture to the setup. For instance, take a look at this shot:
It’s one cookie on white parchment paper, and it can’t get plainer than that. But I added texture by crumbling the paper, breaking the cookie, and leaving some crumbs. Now the cookie looks (and feels!) real and edible. It suddenly becomes an authentic image, not a plain shot for an e-commerce listing.
8. Always edit your cookie photographs
At the beginning of this article, I said that you should get the setup as perfect as possible before shooting. I said that you shouldn’t rely on post-processing to fix problems.
And that’s absolutely true…
…but you shouldn’t disregard the food photography editing process, either! This applies whether you use a dedicated camera or a smartphone to capture images.
I highly recommend you shoot food photos in RAW, and if you do, you need to “develop” them using specialized software that supports RAW formats. I do my editing in Lightroom and Photoshop, but there are many other programs that offer RAW processing, including some free options like GIMP.
And even if your images are JPEGs, a few tweaks using a photo editor can make the files look far more professional.
Here are my cookie photography processing recommendations:
Start by correcting lens distortion. Then make sure all the elements and horizon lines are straight. Crop the shot to the desired aspect ratio and consider your composition rules.
Then adjust the exposure and color by calibrating the white balance, working with the shadows and highlights, etc.
You should also fix any cookie imperfections. Cookies often have cracks or small flaws that can be removed with healing tools:
Finally, if you like, apply a filter or a preset. This will help you maintain a consistent style, which is key when showcasing your cookie photography on Instagram or a portfolio website.
Cookie photography tips: final words
Now that you’ve finished this article, you’re ready to capture some droolworthy cookie photos!
So grab your camera. Find some cookies. And get shooting!
Now over to you:
Which of these cookie photography tips do you plan to use first? Do you have any cookie shots to share? Leave your thoughts and images in the comments below!